Thursday, December 8 2022

The Detroit Tigers didn’t stand a chance against Cristian Javier, just as they didn’t stand a chance against Framber Valdez on Monday and Hunter Brown on Tuesday. The American League-leading Houston Astros, far superior, came into Comerica Park, put their pitching depth on display and swept the lowly Tigers in three games.

In Wednesday’s finale, Javier delivered the final blow in a lopsided fight: six scoreless innings with zero walks and eight strikeouts.

As a result of Javier’s dominance, the Tigers lost 2-1 to drop all seven games to the Astros in the season series. They were previously swept in four games, from May 5-8, at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

“They swing it good and play good defense,” rookie Riley Greene said. “I’m focused on us. I’m not focused on them. They got their own stuff to deal with, and we have our own stuff to deal with. I’m going to focus on us and take away what we can take away from these games and try to make ourselves better.”

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The Tigers (54-89) finally scored in the seventh inning with Astros right-handed reliever Bryan Abreu, who entered Wednesday with a 1.84 ERA in 46 games, on the mound. Javier Báez, paid to be the Tigers’ best hitter, took two pitches for balls before hammering a third-pitch slider that hung inside the strike zone for a solo home run.

The ball traveled 406 feet to left-center field.

“When Javy dials it back — he hates this — but when he dials it back just a tick, it’s a completely different hitter when it comes to giving himself a chance to stay on the ball and get the ball in the air,” Hinch said. “I thought that was a great swing, a good job of battling, and in a close game, it mattered.”

Righty relievers Ryne Stanek and Ryan Pressly slammed the door on the Tigers in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively.

With a runner on first, Greene nearly hit a go-ahead home run off Stanek in the eighth inning, but he flied out at the center-field wall. He received the green light from Hinch and swung at a 3-0 fastball, clocked at 96.4 mph, with two outs.

“It’s a game of inches,” Greene said. “I should have hit it harder. It kind of comes down to that. I hit it good, but it’s just the park we play at. Sometimes it goes, sometimes it doesn’t. … If we go somewhere else, maybe it’s a home run, maybe it’s not. You never know.”

The ball, hit with a 107.5 mph exit velocity, traveled 424 feet and would have been a homer in 28 of 30 MLB parks.

At Comerica Park, though, Greene’s big swing resulted in the third out.

“That topic is such a big topic, especially around this ballpark in the time that I’ve been in this organization,” Hinch said, when asked about moving the wall in center in. “I haven’t really thought a lot about it. We play 81 games here. It’s the same every day. We can complain about it. We can pout about it. We can wonder what if. But it’s our park, so we need to play the dimensions.”

Javy vs. Javy

Facing Javier, the Tigers collected just two hits; Kerry Carpenter and Greene singled in the second and sixth innings, respectively. After Greene’s single, Willi Castro flied out to the warning track in right field to end the sixth inning.

Báez struck out twice in a pair of matchups with Javier. In the fourth, he swung at four consecutive down-and-away sliders that ended up in the left-handed batter’s box. He whiffed at the first slider, whiffed at the second, fouled off the third and whiffed at the fourth.

It was one of Báez’s worst plate appearances this season.

“He’s a punch-out pitcher, and he does that by throwing a lot of strikes and getting into leverage,” Hinch said. “We had some good at-bats, some bad at-bats, not a ton of action and not a ton of hard contact. That’s the cat-and-mouse game of the pitcher and hitter, where he’s trying to disrupt timing. He did a little bit of that.”

Astros pitcher Cristian Javier throws a pitch in the first inning on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022, at Comerica Park.Astros pitcher Cristian Javier throws a pitch in the first inning on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022, at Comerica Park.

Astros pitcher Cristian Javier throws a pitch in the first inning on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022, at Comerica Park.

After Carpenter’s second-inning single, Javier retired 13 batters in a row before Greene snapped the Tigers’ skid with his full-count single on a fastball inside the strike zone. By doing so, he extended his on-base streak to 20 games, the longest active streak in the big leagues.

Javier threw 64 of 90 pitches for strikes, using 50 four-seam fastballs (56%), 24 sliders (27%), 15 curveballs (17%) and one changeup (1%). He generated 14 swings and misses and 17 called strikes, as his slider and curve were particularly sharp.

Early departure for Wentz

Tigers left-hander Joey Wentz took the mound for his fourth MLB start (and his second since returning from Triple-A Toledo). The 24-year-old allowed two runs on four hits and one walk with five strikeouts over four innings.

Wentz threw 28 pitches in the first inning, 15 pitches in the second, 16 pitches in the third and 23 pitches in the fourth. A nine-pitch leadoff walk to the nine-hole batter in the fifth inning forced his departure at 91 pitches.

“I thought I battled hard,” Wentz said. “When I needed to, I thought I threw the ball pretty good. I can live with the solo homer. I wish I wouldn’t have walked the guy to start the fifth. He came around to score. But all in all, I thought I battled OK. I can live with it.”

In the fourth inning, Kyle Tucker hit a solo home run off Wentz’s cutter for a 1-0 lead. Wentz stranded a runner — Trey Mancini (double) — on third base with back-to-back strikeouts with his cutter to escape further damage, however.

In the fifth, Alex Bregman put the Astros ahead 2-0 with a sacrifice fly.

Wentz, who tossed 59 strikes, used 47 four-seam fastballs (52%), 20 cutters (22%), 13 changeups (14%) and 11 curveballs (12%). He recorded seven swings and misses: three fastballs, two cutters and two changeups.

The Astros fouled off 27 of his pitches.

“I don’t think I had my best fastball, but obviously, they’re a very good team,” Wentz said. “They’ve won a lot of games. I’m not sure, to be honest. I threw some good pitches that they fouled off, also probably some that were hittable that they fouled off. They made me work.”

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Tigers stumped again by Houston Astros’ arms in 2-1 loss, series sweep

Source: Yahoo Sports

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